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Alan and Rosemary Bell

Alan and Rosemary Bell

In June 2014, Beverly Shores was awarded the designation of the world’s seventh International Dark Sky Community. This achievement was made possible through the cooperative efforts of the Beverly Shores Town Council, Association of Beverly Shores Residents, ABSR Environment Committee, NIPSCO and with the very generous financial support of the residents of Beverly Shores.

We now find a new challenge.

Several months ago, NIPSCO announced as a cost-saving intervention they will be replacing every street light in the company's Northwest Indiana system with LED street light fixtures. This will include Beverly Shores. We appreciate NIPSCO’s goal of the reduction of maintenance costs, power usage and operating costs. Reducing the use of fossil fuels, reduction of mining operations and other negative aspects of lower efficiency municipal lighting is a goal we support.

NIPSCO advised that the LED technology being used in this equipment will be 4,000 Kelvin-rated. This Kelvin rating is our primary concern. The information that follows will help area residents understand the implications of this decision by NIPSCO. As a reference, high pressure sodium (2,200K) is currently in use on most of our streets.

The source of the information that follows is from the American Medical Association Report of the Council on Science and Public Health — LED Lighting, 2016.

Kelvin (K) is the unit of measurement used to describe the “hue” of a light source. 4,000K generates a color spectrum with excessive blue wavelength. Such wavelengths are associated with more scattering of light in the human eye, causing disability glare, visual impairments and reduced nighttime visual acuity.

This is a more serious problem in eyes of those older than 40. Research suggests intense blue spectrum light emissions may also cause retinal damage. 4,000K is environmentally disruptive to many nocturnal species, including birds, some plant species and certain insect species. It is of considerable concern in our unique duneland environment.

Medical evidence supports long-term increase in cancer risk, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity from chronic sleep disruption associated with exposure to higher Kelvin light sources at night.

We are not the only community objecting to the use of LED streetlights with a high Kelvin rating.

Installation of 4,000K streetlights is the first generation of such conversions, and it has been met with considerable opposition. The following places have either rejected them, expressed strong opposition and demands for modification or already been refitted with lower Kelvin rated replacements: Davis, California; Seattle; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Queens, New York; Phoenix; Los Angeles; Monterey, California, and the jurisdiction of the Georgia Power Co.

Chicago has announced that its LED retrofitting program will use streetlights with a Kelvin rating of 3,000 or less.

The Association of Beverly Shores Residents has been in contact with residents and organizations from other Indiana lakeshore communities who agree with these concerns and who are working on their own initiatives on this issue. The Association of Beverly Shores Residents and the Beverly Shores Town Council have requested NIPSCO change the Kelvin rating of the new fixtures from 4,000K to the AMA and International Dark Sky Association recommendation of a Kelvin rating of 3,000 or lower. Technology as low as 2,700K is currently available for streetlight applications.

This requested Kelvin rating is supported by the AMA, an unsurpassed authority. It also is the standard for the International Dark Sky Association, and it supports the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore effort for designation for Dark Sky Park, along with  Beverly Shores' designation as the world’s seventh Dark Sky Community.

Rosemary and Alan Bell are part of the Association of Beverly Shores Residents Board of Directors Environment Committee. The opinions are the writers'.